Recently I read the short story Dead Jack and the Case of the Amorous Ogre by James Aquilone, the first story set in the Dead Jack universe. I fell completely in love with the world as well as with the undead detective and his homunculus partner, Oswald. That same day, I purchased the Kindle version of the first novel in the series, Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device. I sped through the book in less than a day. But was it as good as the short story?
Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device is the first novel in Aquilone’s Dead Jack series. The plot description is as follows:
Pandemonium: a twilight dimension of nightmare creatures, mythical beings, the undead, and everything in between. To Dead Jack, it’s Hell sweet Hell. In the first book of the series, the tortured, drug-addicted detective stumbles upon his most dangerous case yet, and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Can the zombie P.I. and his associate, the homunculus Oswald, save the day? It won’t be easy. The duo must face rogue leprechauns, ghost pirates, a sex-obsessed shark woman, sycophantic ghouls, an insecure fire demon, and a goateed maniac who calls himself the Duke of Pandemonium. Good thing Jack’s getting paid in a ton of fairy dust!
So I’m going to start by addressing my only complaint about this novel: Jack and Oswald are separated for a good portion of the page count, which was disappointing given that the relationship and dialogue between the two was one of the strongest points of the original short story. While I may have been initially disappointed, that soon came to pass due to the introduction of several interesting supporting characters, most of whom I hope to see more of in future books.
The first of these characters is Georgina the Shark Woman, who comes to Jack’s rescue early on in the book. Georgina is a constantly horny shark woman who spends most of her time in the book trying to get Jack to sleep with her… after which she would eat him, as is the norm with shark women. The next is Camazotz the Thief – or, as Jack calls him, Zotzy – a bat god who agrees to aid Jack in his quest. He starts out as an uneasy ally and eventually becomes a friend.
My favorite of all is the badass witch Zara Moonbeam, who can remove her tattoos and use them as weapons, the primary one being a giant sledgehammer she has down her arm. Zara is my favorite new addition and I wouldn’t mind a spin-off book or short story about her. What back story we get for her is definitely interesting and I would love to see more about her.
I can’t say a whole lot about the plot details for fear of spoilers but I can say that everything, even the most seemingly unrelated thing, is probably connected. The story kicks in with our heroes trying to track down The Goblin Queen’s 52 missing cats and things just snowball from there. We start to get some back story on Dead Jack as well as the world itself, and while everything isn’t completely fleshed out, what we’ve got so far is definitely a doozy. Speaking of doozies – holy shit, that ending! I wasn’t sure whether to be pissed off or sad or some combination of both, but I can say that if I wasn’t already chomping at the bit for the next book’s release, I most definitely am now.
Dead Jack and the Pandemonium Device is a worthy follow up to the short story that introduced the characters of Dead Jack and Oswald. It delivers thrilling action, excellent humor, a look into Jack’s insane past and a gut punch ending that has me wanting a sequel yesterday. Check out the free short story on Amazon and if you enjoy that, be sure to pick up the e book of the novel for only $0.99 or even grab the paperback.